Making Life Better, One Well at a Time
Can you imagine spending more than half your daily salary on a single bucket of water? For a full-time employee earning minimum wage in the United States, that would be $29 for just a few gallons: barely enough for a family to drink—let alone bathe in, cook with, or use for sanitation. Yet every day, countless people in Tanzania confront this impossible choice. Do they drink swamp water, untreated rain water or further plunge themselves and their families into poverty for the “luxury” of one finite supply of clean water? In the village of Ihumwa, outside the capital city of Dodoma, Salesian missionaries are addressing this crucial human rights issue, one well at a time.
Here, most households are not connected to a municipal water supply. Aging infrastructure and a lack of adequate funding means that Dodoma’s water authority hasn’t kept pace with rapid urban expansion. While this hasn’t presented a problem for the area’s few wealthy families—who simply pay for private wells—the majority of Ihumwa’s impoverished population cannot access the safe water they need and deserve. In fact, more than 87 percent of people who live there must collect it from contaminated sources, which in turn has led to widespread water-borne disease. Families who can’t afford to purchase water are often prevented by law from collecting water from the few boreholes in the area.
During the dry season, when safe water resources are even further constrained, the stress of this life-threatening scarcity has even led to violence.
“What’s happening in this rural Tanzanian village is a microcosm of our growing global water crisis,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “While water is almost universally accepted as a basic human right, billions of impoverished and marginalized people are being left behind. And, when people can’t access clean water, the negative effects—such as poor health and time away from school and work—continue to compound, which further widens the gap between the very rich and the very poor. This is why we first established our dedicated Clean Water Initiative—so that whenever and wherever our missionaries identify a need, they can access the resources to quickly and effectively address it.”
Thanks to funding from our Clean Water Initiative, Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco Ihumwa have been able to install a new bore hole, reservoir tanks, piping and a solar-powered submersible pump on their village compound. Now, more than 4,000 people in the surrounding community no longer worry about where they will find water, or if it will make them sick when they do. Residents have also been able to use the water for cooking, laundry, personal and household hygiene, and even small-scale gardening. The well also supplies water to the local primary school and health center.
“Access to clean water and improved sanitation restores dignity and provides for better health,” says Fr. Mark. “It also ensures that youth can remain in school and focus on their studies, instead of missing class time due to illness or the need to search for distant water sources for their families. As we know, education is key to breaking the chains of poverty; clean water is therefore inextricably tied to our ability to help youth and their families succeed.”
For more information on our Clean Water Initiative, and additional examples of its positive impact in impoverished communities around the world, please visit our water page.
Water is a basic human right. Our missions bring safe water sources to people who need it most. What’s your mission?